Category Archives: copyright

I haven’t done a writing links post in a while so let’s get those bookmarked pages going!

A Dungeons and Dragons designer says the monstrous mind-flayers see themselves as tragic figures because they once ruled a slave empire and they can’t get it back. At the link, a good argument why we shouldn’t think of them as tragic or sympathetic (my own thoughts on how villains see themselves are here).

An author who writes a “Cocky Brothers” series trademarked the word “cocky” and won’t allow other authors to use it in titles. When the issue went to court, she lost. More here.

A T-shirt maker trademarked the 150-year-old Plimsoll line for use on T-shirts. When they threatened to sue another company for using the mark, company B agreed.

Women’s health expert Dr. Drai filed to trademark that name. Dr. Dre sued to stop the mark. What happened next will shock you! (Or maybe not).

How copyright law currently blocks publication of unpublished works by great writers. Given how often I run into flawed arguments why copyright is bad, I had the novel experience of seeing the other extreme — lots of people in comments arguing copyright ought to be forever.

Kristine Kathryn Rusch hates agents. Jim Hines makes the case she’s wrong about them.

This Michelle Wolf skit is hysterical, but I can’t see it as a satire of “strong female characters.” It seems more like a take on the movie version of the career-obsessed women in so many rom-coms (she’s so busy she forgot to fall in love and she’ll die stressed out and alone!).

India loves Archie Comics.

Samantha Field’s response to Avengers: Infinity War: If you kill the one you love for power, you don’t love them.

Sorry, meat eaters enjoying tofu is not cultural appropriation.

#SFWApro

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Createspace hackers, copyright and other writing links

Hackers are now targeting author accounts on Createspace.

Atomic Junk Shop on the way current fiction treats smart people.

How to keep writing when life is hard on you.

Camestros Felapton on quoting people who don’t want to be quoted. I’m solidly on the side of “you say it, it’s quotable” unless “off the record” is attached. But having had one couple that spoke in a public meeting threaten to sue me if I quoted them (I quoted them. They didn’t sue), I’m not surprised this is an issue.

Fred Clark of Slacktivist has been critiquing the Left Behind series of Christian apocalyptic novels (taking place, if you can’t tell, after the Rapture has swept up millions of people) for several years. In this post he looks at how slapdash and illogical the author’s world-building is.

Maggie Maxwell on balancing minority villains with positive portrayals. I’ll make the added observation that if every nonwhite in your book is bad (like the entire population of Little Tokyo, USA in the movie of that name), throwing in one good Japanese-American isn’t balanced.

A recent piece on Clinton voters (the mirror image of those Meet Trump Voters pieces) got lots of flak, after which the author declared it was satire. If that’s the case (I’ve seen other writers pull It’s Humor when it obviously isn’t), as noted at the link, it’s a very poor satire.

The implications of a copyright ruling in a case involving Redbox.

Remember the copyright case over a monkey taking a selfie with a photographer’s camera? An appellate court has ruled that US copyright law gives zero rights to animals.

Olivia deHaviland sued over the TV movie Feud on the grounds her portrayal in the film wasn’t accurate. The judge’s ruling: deHaviland’s “right of publicity” (to control how her likeness and name are used or marketed) doesn’t give someone the right to censor inaccurate portrayals.

Walmart had streaming before Netflix. How come the Vudu service never exploded the same way?

A new bill would get creators paid when streaming services play their music … or would it?

The Mary Sue argues Lara Croft has never been just eye candy for guys.

Several women say Native American author Sherman Alexie harassed them. Other writers say Alexie wielded his status in the white publishing world as a club against the competition.

You want wild ideas? How about plans for a Godzilla vs. Batman movie back when the Adam West show was on the air.

Thanos creator Jim Starlin on his love-hate relationship with Marvel.

 

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How not to write women

A couple of years back I linked to Kate Elliott’s post about omniscient breasts — writing from a woman’s POV but still using the male gaze. For example, the woman is constantly aware of her awesome breasts and how good they look, as if she were a man checking herself out. Well here’s some really bad omniscient breasts. More notable because the dude (unidentified) claimed his book proved men could write women well. Protagonist refers to herself having “a nice set of curves if I do say so myself,” and  “pants so impossibly tight that if I had had a credit card in my back pocket you could read the expiration date.” (I’ll link again to Foz Meadows’ discussion of writing hot women).

Another female author discusses a male author (unnamed) who insists his book has been rejected because of the feminazi conspiracy in publishing.

Molly Ringwald looks back at the sexism of John Hughes films.

In defending the hiring of now-fired Kevin Williamson, the Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg said he wanted Williamson as “an excellent reporter who covers parts of the country, and aspects of American life, that we don’t yet cover comprehensively.” Take it from a local city government reporter, Mr. Goldberg, covering “parts of the country” means writing about things like new developments, local elections, school events. It does not mean writing conservative articles about the evils of abortion or the horrors of black inner-city areas. Those parts of the country may agree with Williamson, but by no definition is he covering them.

Copyright kept a film about Martin Luther King from using his speeches.

“historical accuracy” is not a good reason for writing about rape. Unless you’re also writing about cholera, dysentery and the like.

Amazon may be stripping rankings from erotic books to avoid legal issues.

 

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Books are too expensive, so it’s okay to pirate them. Oh, really?

While I liked the book Brand Name Bullies, one thing that didn’t go over so well was David Bollier apparently buying into the stock anti-copyright/pro-piracy arguments (some of this is my interpretation so if I’m getting him wrong I apologize). As lots of people will create for free, do we really need copyright to have a thriving culture? If the industry would just make the price more reasonable, or release the album/book/DVD immediately, people would be happy to buy it.

I blogged about some of these arguments a couple of years back, but I’d like to take this post to argue again against the “they’re just too expensive” stance. This is the view that the price of books, or at least ebooks is too high so hey, you shouldn’t have to pay that much, so hey, you’re entitled to steal.

First off, let’s point out the obvious: some people just want their books free. Ditto music.

Second, how exactly are the people who make this argument calculating the “right” price? Are they assuming it’s the labor of putting the book in digital form — laying it out, editing it, creating a digital file? Do they consider the cost of paying for the cover, or publicity? Do they include the value of the actual story itself, because that’s why the book has, you know, words instead of just being a bunch of blank pages. And why, other than I Want It do they assume their assessment of the price is better than the author/publisher? As John Scalzi points out, even physical books of similar size and format don’t cost the same for lots of valid reasons.

To take an obvious example, the price of my self-published books is based on a)a price I think the market will accept; b)a price that gives me an adequate return on my effort. That takes into account that the online bookstores that sell the ebook (or Createspace for physical copies) take a cut; I have to set a price large enough to cover them. Believe me it’s not a substantial return, but what if it was? I’m the one who produced it, I have the right to set a price. If it’s more than the market will bear, people won’t buy it. Except the “you should have made it cheaper” people don’t accept that. They figure they should be able to get the book if they want it and not pay me anything (I’m willing to bet if I had a PayPal or Patreon they wouldn’t be contributing the “fair” price to compensate).

I have no sympathy for this crap. In the many years I did the struggling-writer shtick, I saw lots of books I couldn’t afford. I didn’t steal copies. I wouldn’t do it if I were still struggling. If it was a paper copy, would they shoplift it from Barnes & Noble if they thought it was overpriced? Or how about a restaurant — if the service takes too long (the “they don’t release it fast enough” argument), does that mean they’re entitled to steal food from the salad bar? Soft drinks cost a fraction of what they sell for, does that make it okay to steal them? Or movie tickets — lord knows those are outrageously priced, but does that justify sneaking in without paying?

One argument I see occasionally is that because digital copies are so cheap and easy to replicate, pirating one of them doesn’t hurt the way stealing something physical does. I don’t think that holds up: stealing one copy of Dan Brown’s latest from Barnes & Noble or swiping some breadsticks from Olive Garden certainly won’t cause a massive shortage. Sure, if everyone did that, it would be a problem, but that’s true of ebooks. If 100 people pirate Sex for Dinner, Death for Breakfast, that’s around $100 out of my pocket. That won’t leave me in the poorhouse, but it’s not nothing (and for people who aren’t two-income families, $100 could be very significant indeed).

I realize even if my readers include pro-piracy types, I’m unlikely to change anything. But still, it’s worth saying.

#SFWApro. Image courtesy of Wikimedia, from Charles Elms’ The Pirates’ Own Book.

 

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Assorted writing-related links, mostly about copy (and related) rights issues (#SFWApro)

Not all related to writing though. For example, the Supreme Court has ruled that cheerleader uniforms can be copyrighted, which is a big break from past. Though I admit the difference between “copyright the design elements” and “copyright the uniforms” still isn’t clear to me.

•A bong-maker must pay Starbucks almost a half-million for its use of “Dabbacino.”

•Lucasfilm is none too happy with the operator of the Lightsaber Academy.

•Bob Segar’s albums aren’t staying around physically, there’s no digital versions — will his work fade away?

•No, a printer company’s patents do not give it the right to tell you which toner cartridge you use.

•A National Review writer says the Bechdel test for movies (are there more than two women in the film? Do they talk to each other? About something other than the hero?) is as silly as rating a movie by whether it has cowboys in it.

•A federal court has rejected one patent troll’s claim that they own the rights to podcasting.

•Atari says Nestle ripped off a classic videogame for a TV commercial.

•Has Google become a generic term?

•A racist YouTube video used a Marvel cosplayer’s image without their consent.

•A streaming service that lets you edit out cussing/bare boobs/etc. to your own taste doesn’t have the right to make those cuts.

•I’ve heard of books gaming the bestseller lists before, but this is an extreme case.

•I didn’t realize San Diego Comic-Con claims a trademark on Comic-Con and apparently variations of the name.

•The creator of Pepe the Frog shut down a publisher using Pepe in racist children’s books. Said publisher will have to pay the settlement in the case to the Council on American Islamic Relations.

 

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I haven’t done a writing related link post in a while … (#SFWApro)

So let’s clean out some bookmarks related to writing, copyright, trademarks …. First, a look at Will Eisner splash pages, some great examples of visual storytelling. Case in point, the cover above (art by Eisner, all rights reside with current holder).

•Have a look at the octopus as a visual symbol of evil reaching out.

The wit of Oscar Wilde.

•An appeals court has ruled that despite the use of “Google” as a verb, Google hasn’t become a generic word (which could cancel out Google as a trademark).

Mindfulness and writing.

•Writing tips from Joss Whedon.

•An argument in praise of strong female villains.

•A coffee shop puts up a handwritten sign in its window, “Plainville Now Runs on Mike’s,” a play on Dunkin’ Donuts’ slogan. Dunkin cries trademark infringement. And General Mills has argued a Doughboy bakery violates its Pillsbury trademark.

•Speaking of trademarks, the Supreme Court has struck down a rule against approving offensive trademarks. And some companies are rushing to exploit the opening.

•The Electronic Freedom Foundation is suing the FBI to find out more about using Best Buy’s Geek Squad as informants. Of interest to any of us who work on our computers, I think.

•A photographer has filed suit against apparel companies he says violated his copyright on a Tupac Shakur photo.

•Mystery novelist Sherry Harris on writing thinking scenes.

•Sony is releasing “clean” versions of films designed for airplane viewing to the general public. Some directors object.

•The Supreme Court has declined to hear the Dancing Baby copyright case.

•A look at the women who helped create Dungeons and Dragons. Though it’s really weird the author references Andre Norton as the woman who wrote Quag Keep (a D&D-influenced novel) and doesn’t mention it was only one of well over 100 books she wrote.

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Copyright, fandom, sexism and other writing links (#SFWApro)

Why the Comedian’s smiley-face button can’t appear in European comics.

•The problem of comics piracy websites. And more on the same topic.

•Kameron Hurley on refusing your editors’ requests.

•New York Governor Andrew Cuomo makes a baffling amount of royalty payments on his memoir.

•What people say to women writers.

•Brianna Wu on sexual harassment at SF cons and the desire some organizers have to forgive the assailant.

•Esther Jones writers about anti-gay activists picketing Norwescon.

•Mary Robinette Kowal on spotting problems with her handling of race in one of her novels. Though I’m sorry, I honestly don’t agree that ” Once the story is out of my hands, each individual reader’s interpretation is valid and correct.” Some interpretations just ain’t right (I will come back to this in another post).

•An Irish burger chain has no sympathy for McDonald’s claim that all eateries with “mac” infringe their trademark.

•Writer Tara Sperling argues that Amazon changes the way we write by the way it classifies books. I’m not entirely convinced, or convinced that it’s new—I’ve seen a few stories well before Amazon that read like someone tacked on an SF or supernatural element to get them out of “mainstream.”

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Writing and copyright links (#SFWApro)

I’d planned something deeper, but I’m too zonked.

•The Supreme Court OKs a patent on cheerleader uniforms. The majority says it’s just about the decorative parts of the uniform; the dissenters say the ruling still goes too far.

•Wicked Cozy Authors on what drives readers away from a series (here’s my own thoughts on the same topic).

•Vulture on why Netflix should have given us an Asian-American Iron Fist rather than a white guy. Matt Foster looks at the general weakness of Iron Fist (I’ve only seen one episode so far, but it didn’t impress me). Atomic Junk Shop argues that keeping the Bronze Age origin and race is part of respecting the source material — but I can’t see that “white guy” is an essential part of the character. And the first episode isn’t respectful at all (hey, let’s turn the story of a martial-arts super hero into a dull soap opera!).

•Justina Ireland argues it’s a mistake to make up oppressed races in a fantasy world rather than tie the setting to real-world discrimination. And that redeeming racists is a plotline that’s geared strictly to white audiences. I haven’t had time to think whether I agree with her, but they’re interesting enough to link to.

•Robert Nielsen looks at cultural appropriation and the Irish — the use of Celtic symbols by white supremacists and “Plastic paddies” who move to Ireland and go native.

•Jim C. Hines has completed his annual survey of novelist incomes.

•The great comics artist Berni Wrightson (cover by Wrightson, all rights to current holder) died this week.

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Fandom, sexism and other writing-related links (#SFWApro)

Foz Meadows looks at the assumption talking about race and representation in YA is, itself, racist. After all, you’re talking about how many black or women or gay characters are in fiction, so obviously you’re not seeing them as people, just diversity hires (so to speak), right? No, as detailed at the link.

•No, comics are not innately a man’s world. Women were involved in comic strips and comic books even before second-wave feminism started.

•SF and comics are not the only creative field with a history of sexism.

•Atomic Junk Shop looks at the roots of sexism in comics fandom (I’ve linked to this before, I know, but it seemed to fit in two different posts).

•Freelancer Renae deLiz had a big hit with Legend of Wonder Woman but her relationship with DC has been less than amicable. Heidi McDonald looks at the history (which includes some crowdfunded projects that did not deliver as planned) and the tricky questions of freelancer vs. corporation.

•Need images? The Metropolitan Museum of Art has them online for free.

•Fake news as a tool for promoting a movie?

•Duke’s Center for the Public Domain puts out a comic-book explaining fair use.

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Copyright and other writing-related links (#SFWApro)

Here’s one for copyright nerds: a lawsuit over whether a play can use a small segment of the classic Who’s on First? routine. The first ruling on the Abbott and Costello joint estates’ claim was that the segment was fair use. A Second Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that it wasn’t fair use, but that the copyright has passed into the public domain (the discussion at the link focuses on the convoluted arguments over whether Universal ever held copyright and if so, whether the estates reclaimed it).

•Is “Tiffany” a reference to jewels sold by Tiffany’s, or just a style? A jury rules Costco owes $5.5 million for selling “Tiffany” rings that aren’t from Tiffany’s.

•A site lets you rip YouTube music clips into MP3s. The recording industry sues.

•An artist sues because Kohls allegedly uses her designs without her OK. And the estate of artist Dash Snow charges McDonalds has copied his work illegally.

•Some Louisiana strippers are suing over a law that bars dancers under 21, on the grounds it violates their free speech rights. Not exactly writing related, but First Amendment is close enough.

•A Fox news anchor sued over a toy hamster from Hasbro that shares her name. The case has been dismissed.

•How do you reconnect with a story after taking a break?

•Kristine Kathryn Rusch on satisfying reader expectations.

•US goverment propagandist Guy Sims Fitch never existed.

•Ebook sales are down, audiobook sales are up.

troubles•Good-looking first editions from the 1970s. Don’t know the artist, all rights to cover art belong with current holder.

•I was never completely comfortable with the scene where the Comedian rapes Silk Spectre in Watchmen. I’d come to to think I was an outlier, but I’m not alone.

•Peter Thiel financed lawsuits against Gawker and broke the company. What does that imply about legal risks for freelancers?

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